Postpartum infections, also known as puerperal infections, are any bacterial infections of the female reproductive tract following childbirth or miscarriage or during breastfeeding. Postpartum infections may begin during labour, after the first 24 hours or within the first week of delivery.
Dr. Chidinma Ohachenu, Medifem Multi-specialist and Fertility Centre, explains that postpartum infections occur in the pelvic area, but can also occur in the bladder or kidney if a patient needed to be catheterized. She mentioned some postpartum infections as including: Endometritis, an infection of the endometrium (uterine lining) and Mastitis, which affects the breast. She said the female urinary tract can also be infected, in which case there’s a cloudy or bloody urine discharge. Also, the physiology (body function) of some mothers makes their bodies not to respond well to anesthesia, and this could lead to respiratory complications.
Most postpartum infections are accompanied by a fever, chills, a general feeling of illness or discomfort. Dr. Ohachenu points to the following as possible symptoms to look out for: headache, abdominal pain, foul discharge from the vagina, pain usually in only one breast, a swelling or discharge around incised area (caesarean), muscle ache, fatigue, or a difficulty in passing out urine.
Who is most at risk?
Though rare, Dr. Ohachenu says women who had a C-section, or those who had premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) are at greater risk of an infection. She said infections are also more likely to occur if a portion of the placenta was retained in the uterus or in those who had cervical or vaginal lacerations.
Treatment of Postpartum Infection
Treatment includes the use of prescription antibiotics, typically trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, nitrofurantoin, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, or ofloxacin. This “should be taken as prescribed for the entire course, even if you begin to feel better quickly,” Dr. Ohachenu said. There are also antimicrobial agents for effective treatment (e.g. doxycycline, clindamycin). Seek medical supervision on the use of these medications, and also exercise regularly and take in healthy foods and drinks.
What to Do
Dr. Chidinma Ohachenu advises that mothers pay attention to the symptoms of infection and strictly adhere to hygiene practices after delivery. She urged mothers to see their doctors at the first sign of a postpartum fever or if they suspect an infection of any kind. “You should also get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids,” she added.
Source: Interview with Dr. Chidinma Ohachenu, Medifem Multi-specialist Hospital and Fertility Centre
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